Cote d’Ivoire opposition wants minister to quit after tragedy

Thursday January 3 2013

ABIDJAN, Thursday

The main opposition party in Cote d’Ivoire today demanded the resignation of Interior minister Hamed Bakayoko after a stampede that claimed 63 lives.

The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), which backed former president Laurent Gbagbo, charged in a statement that the “necessary security precautions” were not taken ahead of a New Year’s Eve firework display that drew some 50,000 people and ended in tragedy.

The party said that Bakayoko should step down “while waiting for the outcome of the inquiry ordered by the head of state”, Alassane Ouattara, who declared three days of national mourning from Wednesday.

Taken to hospital

The government has said that the average age of those killed in the crush at Abidjan’s main stadium was 18.

The head of military rescue workers, Lieutenant Colonel Issa Sako, said 49 injured people were taken to hospital while others sought medical care on their own.

The FPI charged that the government, “in calling out thousands of young Ivorians to a night-time event on a grand scale, did not take the necessary security precautions to avoid such a national tragedy”.

According to the latest official toll, 63 people died and 48 were injured during the stampede near the stadium’s main entrance in the central Plateau district.

The government on Wednesday promised that the inquiry would be complete by the end of the week.

In today’s issue, the state daily Fraternite-Matin called for a full investigation to be carried out, saying in an editorial that previous inquiries into such tragedies had led to “dead ends”.

Hasty conclusions

La Patriote newspaper, which is very close to the authorities, warned against “hasty conclusions” and said that the disaster should not be made a political issue, while the opposition press demanded action against people at fault. (AFP)